The Courage to Change the Things I Can

I was reflecting on the recovery prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It occurred to me that it would be valuable to more deeply explore each section of this invocation—acceptance, courage, and discernment—and help others gain deeper insight into these core elements of graceful living. This article is the second in this series.

By George A. Boyd © 2021

Q: How do I summon the courage to do what I must?

A: Fear inhibits action. Courage requires that you face and overcome your fears, and take action. Several solutions have been advocated for overcoming fear. These include:

  1. An act of will – choose to do what you fear to make you realize that the consequences that your fear projects are baseless. This reveals your fear is false evidence appearing real.
  2. Compassion – Show love and compassion for the frightened parts in your mind and gently ease them through what they fear; let them know they are not alone, and they are safe.
  3. Systematic desensitization – This lists different intensities of fear towards an object or situation. You are exposed to progressively greater intensities of the experience of this fear, while you are trained to relax and release any fear you feel at this level. You do this until you can be exposed to the most fearful instance of your fear and you do not feel afraid. [In this method, a trained psychotherapist walks you through this exercise.]
  4. Vipassana – You let the feelings of fear surface, and you fully experience them. You allow them to release and pass away. You continue this process with your fear until these scared feelings no longer arise.
  5. Rational refutation – in this method, which is used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, you uncover the beliefs that underlie your feelings of fear, and inspect them to see if they are rational. You refute those beliefs that are irrational, and not founded in reality. [Like Systematic Desensitization, this is usually done with a trained psychotherapist.]
  6. Faith – You pray to God or your spiritual Master to protect you. You believe that God is with you during frightening episodes in your life. You ask for God’s help to grant you strength and courage.
  7. Systematic transformation – You change things in your life, so you do not have to encounter what you fear. You change your beliefs and perceptions through reframing, so the fear object is no longer intimidating. [This method is commonly used in coaching.]

To overcome your fear, you need to find a method that helps you work with it. Many people have used these approaches to successfully rise above their fear: there may also be a technique that will work for you.

Love and Fear

In the Bible it says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” [I John 4:18] This higher love within you can help you surmount your fear.
Fear comes from your wish to avoid:

  • Death
  • Injury or pain
  • Humiliation; loss of esteem with others; experiencing censure or ridicule
  • Stress or extreme difficulty
  • Loss of something valuable to you—love, money, or a cherished possession
  • Experiencing failure; making the wrong decision and not succeeding in what you propose to do
  • Withdrawal of others’ love, support, or favor

Perfect love is the experience of the Soul’s unconditional love. This love:

  • Is detached from the struggle your ego is going through in your life
  • Perceives itself as immortal, and is not afraid of death
  • Inspires faith, hope, and courage in you
  • Leads you to carry out altruistic acts of kindness and charity for others
  • Enables you to defer gratification, and to persevere despite difficulties or trials
  • Grants the experience to the ego that it is not alone; that the Higher Self within stands with it
  • Remains steadfastly with you until the challenge or crisis is ended

One of the ways you can overcome fear is to invite this unconditional love of the Soul to be present with you, to hold your hand and walk you through this terrifying episode in your life. Inviting in a Higher Power—your Higher Self, an angel, a spiritual Master or Savior, or the form of the Divine that you call upon—can instill in you the courage, strength, and faith to move forward when you feel frightened.
When you have the inner confidence and conviction you will be okay; this will enable you to get through this frightful encounter.

You can get the assistance of a psychotherapist or coach to help you work with difficult fears you cannot resolve yourself. You can learn to work with your fears in your unconscious mind using a variety of evocative self-help methods.

In our intermediate meditation courses—the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—we teach methods that will enable you to work with fear: Process Meditation, the Mandala Method, and the Rainbow Technique.

We encourage you to find a resonant method that works for you to overcome your fear and to move ahead to the next step in your life.

Those of you who are in stable recovery from your addictions may find the Addiction Recovery Coaching Program helpful.